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Juvenile Comedy <i>Kangaroo Jack</i> Tops US Most Popular Movie List - 2003-01-22

A juvenile comedy set 'down under' hops to the top of the North American box office chart. Also new this week: the latest comic antics from Martin Lawrence. Alan Silverman lists the top five films, starting with the hit combination of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio

Catch Me If You Can is based on the true story of Frank Abagnale who, as a teenager, led authorities on a merry chase as he impersonated professionals from airline pilot to doctor and lawyer. Tom Hanks plays the FBI agent on his trail; Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Abagnale and says he appreciates audience and critical reaction to his work.

"I pay attention to how people receive movies," says DiCaprio, "but you honestly can never truly tell. I've felt like certain movies were fantastic and critics and audiences felt the exact opposite....and vice versa. That's what the art is for. That's why you do this. You want to share it with people and see how people respond to it. Otherwise we'd be acting in our living rooms."

Steven Spielberg directs and Catch Me If You Can ends up in fifth place.

At number four, Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers, is the middle film of director Peter Jackson's one-per-year trilogy based on the middle earth mythology created by author J.R.R. Tolkien. English actor Andy Serkis wins acclaim for his "performance behind the performance." His voice remains, but his body is replaced by the computer-generated image of the tragically misshapen character Gollum.

"Tolkien describes him moving like cats and whipped dogs and grasshoppers and almost like a spider," says Serkis, "but what I really wanted to do with the part was, because he's so extreme looking, to get the human part of his personality very strong."

"I wanted to find a modern analogy for that, so I worked on him basically being an addict," he explains. "Gollum for me is an addict. He's a heroine addict or has a strong addiction, which is the ring. When that ring is gone he suffers from withdrawal and the pathology associated with addiction. I wanted people to see the effort it took for him to move."

Just Married, a romantic comedy about young newlyweds on a horrendous honeymoon co-stars Brittany Murphy and Ashton Kutcher.

"It shows the man's perspective of the relationship and then the woman's perspective of the relationship," explains Kutcher. "It's a comedy that's romantic, but beyond that it's a really neat look at the underbelly of a relationship."

After a first place debut last week Just Married is bumped down to number three by the two new films on the chart.

National Security co-stars Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn as would-be police officers who can't make in the LAPD so end up working as "rent-a-cop" security guards.

Lawrence says the main goal was to make a funny film.

"I believe National Security is a movie you can truly enjoy and just laugh with it," says Lawrence. "There's no hidden agenda like National Security, what's it trying to tell you? It's Earl and Hank, security guards. It's simple."

National Security opens up at number two; and the new first place film is Kangaroo Jack a wacky comedy about two New Yorkers running an errand for a crime boss in Australia where a problem hops up.

Anthony Anderson and Jerry O'Connell co-star along with an incredibly realistic animatronic marsupial. Critics hate the film. That doesn't surprise producer Jerry Bruckheimer, but he says he doesn't care as long as it entertains the audience.

"Kids laugh right from the gut and their laughter is so genuine and they have such a great time," Bruckheimer says. "If you're a parent, the most fun is to take your child to a movie and watch them enjoy it. That's what this picture does for them. It gets them really going. They run down the aisles and in some scenes there's hysterical laughter. Kids are jumping in their seats."

Audiences ignored the overwhelmingly negative reviews to jump Kangaroo Jack right up to the top of the chart: the new most popular movie at North American theaters.